Frozen shoulder occurs when the connective tissue in the shoulder joint “locks up,” causing pain, explains Alysia Robichau, MD, who specializes in orthopedics and sports medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital. “The shoulder capsule, tendons, and muscles become tight, preventing movement. The best way to treat it is with exercises that gradually increase range of motion.”
Indeed, gentle stretches help loosen the tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder, restoring the ability to reach fully without pain. To get the benefits, follow Katherine Maiorana’s lead and try these three stretches three times per week. “Just stretch to the point of discomfort — but not pain,” says Dr. Robichau, who suggests trying to push a bit further each day. Also helpful: Use a heating pad before or after stretching, as heat can help relieve pain.
This stretch loosens up the rhomboids, rear deltoids and tendons across the back of the shoulder to improve reach.
To Do: Sitting on the floor, lie back on a foam roller so it’s resting under your painful shoulder. Bend your knees to plant your feet on the floor and open your arms to the sides in the shape of a goalpost, letting your elbows rest on the floor, if you can. Hold for 15 seconds, then release.
This stretches the shoulder to increase range of motion.
To Do: Hold a towel behind your back, palms facing out. With your healthy arm, pull the towel up. If you don’t feel a stretch, bring your healthy arm behind your head so the towel hangs down your back. Grasp the hanging end of the towel with your painful arm and pull down. Hold for 15 seconds, then release.
Utilizing a doorway helps loosen the anterior deltoids and the tendons at the front of the shoulder joint to curb pain.
To Do: Stand in a doorway. Place the hand of your frozen shoulder on the doorjamb as high as you are able, then take a step forward with the foot on the same side until you feel a stretch. Hold for 15 seconds, then release.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.